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Why is my skin purging?

Joanna Melville | 14.09.2021

When we start a new skincare routine or try a new product, the expectation is that all our troubles, breakouts and concerns will fade away immediately. Unfortunately, the purge can be an unforeseen stage that stands between you and your skincare goals.


Purging is a reaction to ingredients that cause increased cell regeneration where impurities and clogged pores are drawn up to the skin’s surface - often appearing as a big breakout. 

Whilst this sounds like a step backwards, it’s actually a positive phase as these pimple-causing impurities, such as excess sebum, dirt and dead skin cells, will have been lingering beneath the surface. Without the product accelerating their removal, they would have remained until eventually surfacing at some point in the future. 

This can often happen when you add exfoliating products like Glycolic Acid (AHA), Salicylic Acid (BHA), Vitamin C and Retinol to your skincare routine.  


Unlike skin purging, which is a temporary skin detox, a skin reaction means your skin is sensitive or allergic to ingredients in the product you're using. If your breakout continues for several weeks after starting product use, it could be a skin reaction. You should stop using the product immediately if you have any burning and reddening that does not subside in a few minutes.  

To tell the difference, purging tends to happen in places you frequently breakout anyway and the pimples themselves clear away a lot more quickly. The purging process is working with the skin’s cycle and is a phase that should clear up within 4-6 weeks of starting the new routine - anything longer could be more of a reaction.

Similarly, If the product doesn’t contain an active ingredient such as a retinoid, exfoliating acid or peel which would or could typically cause a purging effect, then it is more likely to be a reaction to an ingredient.


male model close up

The best advice is to push through the purge when these breakouts occur.  Whilst it can be tempting to want to stop using your current products until your skin settles, we actually advise you to continue with your routine to allow the process to complete. 

If your purge lasts longer than 6-8 weeks, discontinue use and seek medical advice as this could be a reaction and you want to avoid any potential damage to the skin barrier. 

Remember, at the end of the purge process is fresh, healthy and clearer skin so keep that in mind as motivation! 


If your skin is purging, we recommend persisting with your routine to allow impurities to be drawn from beneath the surface. Whilst it’s better to power through the purge, you can try adjusting your routine gradually to reduce its intensity. Start by adding new products once a week and building up to 2-3 slowly. This gives your skin a chance to adjust to the new product and a more gentle purge experience.


  • As purging can sometimes result in dryness or dehydration of the skin, we recommend adding in some extra hydration such as Hyaluronic Acid or Squalane to your routine. 
  • If your skin is purging vs reacting, stick to your AM and PM despite how tempting it feels to stop or change. Clear and fresh skin at the end of the purge will be worth the wait. 
  • Don’t pick or over exfoliate - this can extend the duration and the severity of the purge and potentially cause longer term damage and scarring. 
  • Listen to your skin - if you feel like your skin is reacting, seek out professional advice or guidance and adjust your routine accordingly. 


Here are some of the products in our range that may have a purging effect and a little insight on why...


As your go-to ingredient for skin renewal, retinols and retinoids can be main players when it comes to purging as their main purpose is to increase the turnover of cell production which can in turn speed up bringing impurities to the surface.

Derived from Vitamin A, this slow release Retinol serum helps target the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with less risk of irritation. It also boosts overall skin clarity and uneven skin tone for a brighter, more even complexion. This serum is a perfect introduction to using Retinol for those who are starting to see the signs of ageing. 


BHA is an exfoliator that works beneath the surface of the skin to help unclog pores, target blackheads and reduce excess oil. This can cause deeply rooted impurities to be drawn to the surface. 

Containing 2% Salicylic Acid, this formula penetrates deeper into your skin, BHA is a great choice for oilier skin as its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties can help calm breakout prone skin without any burning or tingling sensation. Thanks to added 1% Hyaluronic Acid it is non-drying to skin.

Model with Cleanser bottle


This non-drying, lightly foaming cleanser removes makeup and dirt, while penetrating deep into pores helping to reduce blackheads and breakouts.

As well as effectively cleansing the skin, this 2% Salicylic Acid cleanser has an added zinc compound. Together they help with oil-control, reducing blackheads and breakouts and promoting a more even looking complexion.


This 10% Glycolic Acid exfoliating toner helps to reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines, as well as support smoother and brighter skin. 

As it works to remove dead skin on the surface to help improve the overall appearance of skin texture and brightness, this causes the skin to regenerate at a faster pace and clear any clogged pore. Formulated with 5% Witch Hazel to help reduce excess oil and soothe whilst working deeply.


Delivering a potent dose of actives to help brighten dull skin and support natural skin elasticity, the Vitamin C in this serum is a powerful multifunctional antioxidant which helps to protect skin from damage caused by environmental pollution (called free radicals). From a purging perspective, the naturally derived EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) helps to stimulate skin cells to regenerate, producing rejuvenated, youthful skin but also stimulating the skin to purge.​


Whilst a more gentle exfoliating acid, ideal for sensitive skin, the PHA (Polyhydroxy acid) is made of large molecules which remove dead cells from the surface layer of the skin, while naturally locking in moisture. This is a great formula to encourage gentle skin regeneration and cleansing.


Female model smiling

Whilst we don’t advise meddling with the momentum of your routine too much, there area few products that can help ease the impact of an unexpected breakout...


Our Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment is a targeted hero that can attack blemishes fast, reduce inflammation and prevent clogged pores. The cream formula is easily layered under makeup without flaking.  

With 2% Succinic Acid, the treatment gently reduces blemish size, reduces oil levels and unblock pores whilst also helping prevent them from clogging again after use. Combined with 2% Sulfur and 1% Salicylic Acid, this targeted treatment will help shrink blemishes and blackheads whilst remaining gentle on the skin.


If you’re suffering with a big breakout, you could try using our natural, deep-cleaning face mask once a week to help support the process. Using a high-grade clay to help absorb excess oil, unclog pores and remove impurities from the skin, our Kaolin Clay Mask is great for blemish-prone skin. The white clay helps to draw out impurities and improve oil control and is gentle, so it's perfect for all skin types as a deep clean.

If you’re unsure if your skin is purging or want to discuss your routine, contact the askINKEY team. 

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